BEE is for BRAVE! At Brooklyn Grange’s Navy Yard apiary in New York City

by: Sara on 01/02/2013
Posted in: Community

Happy New Year everyone! For our first blog post of 2013 we hear from Christy Hemenway, the author of the just released book, The Thinking Beekeeper, A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives and the founder of Gold Star Honeybees. Christy discusses the challenges faced by beekeepers in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

New York City never ceases to impress with its strength and resiliency in crisis, and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was no exception.  The folks at Brooklyn Grange’s Navy Yard urban farming project had worked hard to build the largest apiary in the city – 25 hives located on a pier at ground level, and in the face of Sandy’s wrath – they did everything they could to protect those hives from the ravages of the storm. 

Sadly, the water rose much higher than they hoped.  Even though Ben, brave beekeeper, did his best to anchor the hives in place by strapping hundred pound concrete pavers to the tops of the hive boxes – when the water level approached eight feet, eyewitnesses described the sight of the hives beginning to float.  But then, of course, once the water began to go back down, it sucked many of the hives off the pier and out into the East River as it went. 

An assessment of the loss of equipment revealed dollar figures in the neighborhood of $10,000 – but the harshest part, from a beekeeper’s point of view - is the loss of all those bees.  And not just because beekeepers get attached to their bees – which they do; something that is hard to explain to someone who is not a beekeeper themselves - but also because many of the bees had come from a retired beekeeper in Pennsylvania where they had been thriving and productive for years.  The Brooklyn Grange beekeepers were purposefully planning to breed from this hardy stock and incorporate these strong Pennsylvania bees’ genetics into their own NYC breeding program.  What a loss.  What a tragedy among tragedies.

The photos on the Brooklyn Grange journal page show the devastating aftermath and the carnage that Sandy left behind on that pier – including a video of the one hive that somehow survived -- now know as the Hurricane Hive. 

It brings to mind the lyrics of the Johnny Cash song “Five Feet High and Rising”  -  

“…the hives are gone, I lost my bees … How high’s the water, Mama?

Five feet high and rising…”

And I am reminded once again of the incredible strength and beauty of New York City herself, and all of the brave and beautiful people that live there, when I read these beekeepers’ vow: 

 …Know this: no matter what happens, we will be back next season. 

Giving up is not an option.  This is a curveball that nature has chosen to throw us.  We will knock it out of the park.

My heart goes out to you, Brooklyn Grange.   May you return stronger than ever – rebuilding in numbers even greater than before… and just think – now you’ve got bees that can swim too – probably a good trait to breed for on a planet that is getting warmer by the day.

You can visit the Brooklyn Grange’s Hurricane Bees webpage here:  (


blog comments powered by Disqus